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March - April 1999

Honey  - Australia's Liquid Gold

A publication of the Australian Honey Bee Industry Council 


Appointment of Executive Director

The Australian HoneyBee Industry Council (AHBIC) is pleased to announce that, following an extensive executive search, Mr Stephen Ware has been appointed as its Executive Director.

Stephen Ware holds a Bachelor of Financial Administration University of New England, a Diploma of Corporate Management and Company directors Diploma and has a strong record of achievement in agribusiness, project and general management. 

His extensive experience in the management of national secretariats has encompassed the development and implementation of industry policy and these efforts have been instrumental in achieving legislative change at both State and Federal levels.

In his role as Executive Director of the Australian Council of Livestock Agents, he has represented an industry with participants with a $3 billion turnover. He was also directly involved in the establishment and day to day management of a national quality assurance programme for saleyards through the company National Saleyard Quality Assurance. Prior to joining the Australian Council of Livestock Agents, Stephen was for six years the Economist for the NSW Farmers Association.

Before this, Stephen was a Research Officer for the State Chamber of Commerce, which included servicing the Legal Affairs Committee preparing government submissions, providing industrial relations and small business advice.

Chairman, Mr Laurie Dewar commented, “Stephen brings a high level of experience that will assist the industry in policy development, administration and quality assurance. We look forward to working with him and to a long and fruitful relationship.” he concluded.

Crop and Stock Reports

New South Wales

The Bloodwood flow in the Piliga has been very patchy with some beekeepers getting a good crop but most getting very little. Mugga Ironbark in the Central West is looking very good with some trees starting to flower and showing good honey. With good rains falling in the second half of March there should be a good crop taken from Mugga.  Napunyah in the North West on the Paroo River is looking okay and some beekeepers will be moving in by the end of March as it is very early this season.

E Podmore
North Eastern- Stringbark- New England area- very patchy budding, providing light build conditions only for some beekeepers. No winter flowering stringbark budded.

Piliga Bloodwood- Storm damage and light budding  considered reasons for loss of production in some areas. Now past its peak, hives have good brood. Some reports of adult bee deaths.

White Box- very patchy from available reports, not good widespread budding.
Brown Box- Western- Some areas producing honey.
North Coast Grey Gum and Grey Box have been flowering, too wet for good production- some reports of adult bee deaths.
Tea-Tree- could be a good flowering and produce if rain eases.

Overall- Few to none good Autumn prospects.

J Rhodes
Red Bloodwood failed to provide any surplus nectar because of a very poor budding in most coastal districts. The second flowering of the Bellbowrie Tea tree in March is on fine days providing surplus nectar on the central and north coast. In some areas patches of Spotted gum is also flowering, the areas are limited so production will not be great.

In some coastal areas on the south central and north coast

Banksia is starting to cob up. In these heatland areas bees could winter well because of the February - March rain stimulating the budding on the many heath plants some of which will flower during the winter months.

B White
The Apple box on the tablelands is finished and had a very brief flowering period. Some activity on Western Grey box and Mugga Ironbark, the Mugga looks good for the autumn and spring although judicious use of protein supplements will be required this year to work this nectar resource. No major prospects until spring in most areas. Very little honey being held by beekeepers.
D Somerville

Many Experienced commercial beekeepers have reported that the season 1998-99 will go down as the worst in terms of honey produced that they have ever experienced. Just how serious the effects of the 1997-98 drought, particularly on eucalyptus, has been can now be fully appreciated. Even those Victorian apiarists who generally product a good percentage of their annual crop interstate have found the going very hard. There has been some recovery from modest yields of (E.obliqua) messmate, clover, manna gum and packets of Grey box in late summer early autumn that will give beekeepers the chance of going into winter with reasonable bees and stores. As reported earlier, Yellow gum heavily budded in the iron bark country, may do something before the cold weather sets in. Some bees have already been moved onto black box sites in the lower Darling country, in NSW, where the budding is good but much of the flowering will not occur for another two months. 

Beekeepers are also expecting to work the NSW channel country for Napunyah where northern prospects look much better than in the south, where dry conditions still prevail. A major disappointment has been, particularly going into winter, that although Western Victoria did receive some timely summer rain Banksia (B.ornata) mostly, failed to cob, eliminating this very good source of rehabilitation for hives over the winter.

The good news is that eucalyptus across the state have grown well and set buds for next season. A lot can happen between now and next season’s flowerings, but optimism springs eternal.

North East- No commercial quantities of honey produced this season, although some pockets of grey box are yielding at present. Yellow gum remains an uncertain prospect. Beekeepers have travelled widely to harvest modest crops.
Gippsland- Little real commercial quantities of honey produced. Autumn prospects are virtually nil, but next season should be better.
Central Victoria- Beekeepers report the messmate crop yeidled at best one round, but yields were variable according to district.  Bees that came into the messmate with a reasonable background of good nutrition did best and are now the best bees. Pockets of grey box are now yielding, and yellow gum is a possibility this side of winter.
North West Victoria- The Mallee country is still suffering badly from extreme dryness. No production. Only modest prospects for eucalypt production over winter/spring period.

L Briggs

A record rainfall for February on the West Coast of Tasmania diminished the Leatherwood honey harvest by 50%.
Over 10” of rain fell in a few hours on the 7th February bringing to an end a very promising Leatherwood crop. The ground was white with petals.

S Stephens
South Australia

Since receiving reports from the different regions many areas of the State have received medium rainfalls.

South East- Upper- Irrigated lucerne honeyflow was below average. Some bees have been moved onto coastal Tea tree and messmate (light yield, a breeding flow only). Sufficient rainfall needed so that bees can be moved onto wintering sites.
Bees have gone back since lucerne pollination.
West  Coast- Upper- Euc. gracilis (white mallee) starting to flower, conditions have been very dry so prospects may be affected. Euc.dumosa and Tea tree medium yield but have finished. Some prospects for Euc.diversifolia, but patchy.

West Coast- Lower- Sugar gum yielded.

Riverland- Small pockets of white mallee budded.

Central- Yellow stringbark is yielding pollen and bees are rehabilitating well after lucerne pollination; useful flow of honey expected.

Northern- Lower- Euc.socialis and Euc.oleosa have finished after a light yield. Euc.odorata (peppermint) budded well. Tea tree was very poor, poorest for many years.
Northern- Upper- During the last month a little pollen and nectar has sustained the bees only. There have only been pockets of sugar gum.

K Lambert

There is already limited movement of hives to the channel country due to poorer than expected prospects for Autumn and Winter in Queensland. There is a need for general rainfall to support the benefits gained from extensive flooding in south west Queensland. Yapunyah has set bud but will need support from pollen producing species  in order to maintain colony strength going into winter. Many honey producers will move from Inland Bloodwood (Pilliga scrub NSW) directly to their sites on the channels with hives that will need a round of brood in the coming weeks to set them up for Yapunyah production.

Narrow Leaved Ironbark is not generally budded and is regarded in many areas as being a disappointing prospect. Spotted gum is patchy and has yielded some pollen but is not expected to yield any significant honey flows.

The big surprise for Queensland honey producers has been the very good flow of Mallee Box (E.pilligaensis) and Red Ash. Yield has been excellent from both species and hives that worked the Pilliga Box have benefited from good pollen yield with very nice brood patterns and healthy bees. Red Ash, while not being a choice table honey is yielding over a wide area which will hopefully benefit many producers who have had a lean year.

Good summer rains have set the next season up with the potential for a normal crop for the first time in a few years. Crops like Yellow box, Hill gum, Grey iron Bark etc may well be due for an on year.

Stock levels in honey producers hands remain limited due to the poor production experienced so far this year.

B Winner
Western Australia

The season has continued to be most difficult for many beekeepers, while others have produced a worthwhile crop. Heavy rain has fallen which stopped areas of Marie producing. However, the rain will assist future honey flows.
Blackbutt has provided build up for bees and some production did eventuate from Marri. Some areas produced much better than others. Some apiarists have bees on the Karri but wet weather has slowed down production. The northern York Gum or Coastal Plains would be future prospects due to recent rains. A most disappointing year for most.

I Baile

Stock Reports


Inquiries continue, but packers will be unable to take new orders and will be struggling to maintain regular markets. As last year’s production was only slightly better that this year, there was very little carry over and in most cases nil.
Apiaries are now, or have been prepared for winter. Weather has been warm up till 22 March. Over 1” of rain fell on the 21st and heavy winds give us a foretaste of a very hard winter.

S Stephens
Capilano Honey:

Level of Stock holding 

QLD/NSW/VIC - Stocks levels are comfortable at present although the lack of stocks in beekeepers hands and stronger winter sales ahead should see stocks reduce to low levels before any major crops in the new season get under way. Stocks on hand are well committed for market sales both domestically and export. Grades are predominantly light - below 50mm however improving supplies of darker grades are expected. 

Some packers appear to have a  shortage of supply due to poor production in their area. 

Estimation of Stockholding by beekeepers

QLD/ NTHN NSW  - Honey  supply continues with S/Jane plus more recent production from Coolibah , Black Box  and now Bloodwood. Only a few beekeepers are holding significant stocks.
STHN NSW  - Stock levels have reduced as production has been quiet over the past 2 months. Some beekeepers moved onto Bloodwood however recent heavy rain finished it.
Vic/SA -  Minor stocks on hand. Messmate has yielded some Production, which  is going straight to packers. One of the worst seasons experienced. 

Estimation of Future Crops

QLD - Production has been better recently with late summer crops yielding well e.g. Mallee Box & Red Ash for some beekeepers. Many beekeepers will be looking to the winter crops of Yapunyah. Reports indicate  a good budding  and conditions in some areas with the likelihood of some production prior to winter.

NSW - Improved  prospects exist for next season on eucalyptus e.g. Yellow Box. Mugga Iron Bark prospects for winter also. Prior to that a quiet time is expected except for those planning to work Yapunyah 

Vic - Too early to forecast 99/00.

SA - A good general budding for next season is shaping up and with right conditions could develop into above average crop prospects 

Level of Overseas buyer demand

Limited demand exist, however Australian prices are at a significant  premium over other origins. Minor sales have been made  due to lack of supply. Sales in UK/Germany may still be possible at US$1300 per tonne in limited volume. Uncertainty of prices exist later when supply increases and there are greater supplies available.

Most export origins are at lower levels now in the range of US$980 -1050 Fr. Some buyers claim to have paid US$930 cfr for Argentine honey recently .
L Smith

New South Wales
Very little change from the last report with most honey being extracted going straight to packers.
There has been many southern packers looking for honey in the Central West with prices in the $1.75 to $1.80 range for any type of honey.

E Podmore
Wescobee Ltd

Stocks- stock holding is now increased and above budgeted expectations for March. Concern remains as to how the season will develop as we go into the winter.

Stockholding by Beekeepers- No honey is held by beekeepers although this could change if production continues at the current rate.

Season- We had seen poor honey volumes being received until February 1999 resulting in below budget expectation. The Redgum crop has been patchy through out the state but some beekeepers were able to finish on the blackbutt, which helped the situation along.

Future crops- The Redgum is just finishing and there is some yielding expected from the Karri (although marginal). There is still uncertainty in the air with beekeepers reporting varied conditions for the future. Banksia is showing signs of promise for the winter run assisted by the wet condition due to the cyclones in our Northwest. The Spring is showing signs of promise and with the rain we could really see a good season ahead of use (but let us not start counting the eggs yet!!)

Overseas demand- remains steady if not increased. Prices still need to come up a long way to meet Australian expectations and the reports from international sources all show a downward trend for bulk honey. Price still drives the honey market both domestically and internationally.

E Planken


Western Australia

Orders are coming in for the early melons for the North of the State both hive and bee tubes.

Beetubes seem to be in strong demand in this market.
J Silcock

Lucerne Pollination & Importation of Canadian Leaf Cutter Bees
An initial importation of 300,000 leaf cutter bees were imported in late December,1997 and after going through stringent quarantine arrangements, 200,000 were hatched and released into 2 lucerne crops at Deniliquin, NSW in February 1998. 
The bees foraged on the lucerne crops, but less than 15,000 new bee cocoons were recovered from nesting shelters in April 1998. This large loss appeared to be due to premature deaths of the adult bees working the crop.

Prices for Managed Bee Pollination
Prices achieved for managed honey bee pollination of Lucerne seed is firming upwards. Growers report that seed buyers are still advising them that the growers should not pay more than $25 per hive, but there are not many hives available at this price, and $30 per hive has become minimum that beekeepers will accept.
Prices of $40 have been attained in a few cases, with one report of $45 per hive being paid for a large number of hives for a large area of crop.

The 1998 pollination season has seen more stability coming into the professional managed honey bee pollination services.
For many years the industry has been plagued by opportunist pollinators who come in and out of pollination, depending on seasonal prospects for honey production and/or fluctuating honey prices. These beekeepers usually offer bee hives at fees well below the cost of delivering these services, with the result that the quality of the service is often wanting.
As the accent on producing quality fruit and/or seed intensifies, growers are at last taking an interest in what bees are doing in their crops, and taking not of what is happening with regard to pollination.
This is allowing genuine, professional pollinators to at last convince growers of the value of a reliable service and the need to deal with genuine operators.

Pollination Prices
Prices being achieved this year for most flowering horticultural crops have been $30.00 per hive up to $38.00 per hive.
Beekeepers who have been prepared to pollinate apples for as low as $15.00 per hive are dropping out. This last spring two growers were let down at the last moment by low quote suppliers opting out of providing these bee hives at the last minute. Luckily, we were able to assist these growers by helping to access other beekeepers willing to supply hives at short notice.

Seed Crops
Most seed crops are summer flowering, including seed clover, seed lucerne, seed carrots, seed onions, hybrid seed canola etc.etc.
Prices being achieved for these crops have been –
Clover seed up to $20  per hive
Carrots, onions, canola $35 per hive
Lucerne, generally $30 to $40 per hive in a few cases. Lucerne seed growers need bee hives for up to 6 weeks, the other seed crops usually 4 weeks.

B McDonald

Queen Bee Breeders

The AQBBA has been trying for 10 years to gain access to the USA live bee trade with little success. There is now a light at the end of the tunnel. USA is now drawing up a draft rule to assess Australia to export bees to the USA.

This season Canada has imposed a environmental levy on all shipments of queen bees to Canada. The levy is used to determine whether animals imported could represent a threat to Canadian fauna and flora if they were to escape or be released. (currently, honeybees are in the same category as animals).

Binford Weaver from the famous Weaver Apiaries in the USA will be this years overseas guest speaker at the NSW Annual Conference at Bomaderry in May. Weavers used to produce over 100,000 queen bees each season.

C Wilson



Native Title 
The Wimmera Native Title claim 1st Review Hearing was held before Justice North on February 4,1999. Justice North made an order grouping persons accepted as parties to the Wotjobaluk Peoples’ Native Title application into various interest groups.
34 Beekeepers have been listed in Group 7, under “Beekeeping Interests”. The VAA Inc. is representing these beekeepers.
The VAA Inc. is investigating the possibility of accessing Legal Aid to assist us in establishing our rights in this area.
The Wimmera Native Title claim has to go through the new registration Test before it can proceed further. This will take until May 27 to complete.

The Western RFA process has started with a series of meetings through western Victoria in late March to explain the process to interested parties.
The Western RFA originally included all of western Victoria west of the Hume Highway. This has now been modified and most of the land under investigation in the Box Iron Bark Woodlands Investigation has been deleted and the Western RFA now only includes the lands west of the Hume Highway with the northern boundary a line reaching from Seymour in the east, through Daylesford, Avouch and Horsham in the west.
Another series of meetings are scheduled for the end of April.

The heathland mallee areas of Western Victoria are not subject to the RFA process. Only forests which grow harvestable timber.
The Box Iron bark Woodland will not now be subject to any RFA process.

The Public Lands Council, of which the VAA Inc. is now a member is meeting in the Head Office of Parks Victoria on March 31. This should give us the opportunity to discuss some of the recent concerns beekeepers are having in accessing their bee sites in National Parks etc..

B McDonald

There is no official report available for Tasmania as Col Parker has been hospitalised recently. Industry wishes you all the best for a speedy recovery.



There have no more Asian bees found in Darwin to date. 

As reported in the last Honey News, Hamish Lamb spent time in Darwin.   Hamish was able to help with bee lining some feral hives, which were subsequently destroyed after sampling. 

The public awareness campaign has again been commenced.  In this program, the public are asked to report any bee activity in the area.  This program had been on a low footing during the main wet season, which lasted for many weeks.  Bee activity during this time was minimal.  The local newspapers, radio and TV are all co-operating well with the program. 


This program is slowly getting underway.  I have written to several State Associations to contact their State Apiary Officer re the commencement of this program.  It is the State Departments who have the responsibility to make this program work and each State Association needs to get behind the program.

The industry has been presented with an excellent opportunity by the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service (AQIS) to have this scheme put in place.

The next phase is a leaflet that will be available for public distribution.  AHBIC will be advising AQIS that we would like to see this on a National basis and not on a State by State basis.  The main reason for this is that we will have economy of scale and a standard approach throughout Australia.  It is important that our message is heard, particularly by those in port areas.  Again, the industry must thank AQIS for helping making this happen.


I must apologise for an incorrect statement in my last report in Honey News.  An Ausvet Plan has not been prepared for the small hive beetle.  The main reason is that Russell Goodman has been tied up with his other industry work, particularly his research, and Canberra has advised that there is also a matter of funding.  This is a matter AHBIC will need to deal with.


The Quarantine and Exports Advisory Council report to the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry of a Review of the Northern Australia Quarantine Strategy has been published.  Basically it supports the NAQS program and we are to have comments in by 16 April.

From an industry point of view, we will make some comments, mainly supporting the report, and again stressing the excellent work that the NAQS people are doing.

I recently attended, on behalf of the Queensland Beekeepers Association (QBA), a meeting in Cairns to do with Northwatch.  This is a State program of the Queensland Department of Primary Industries (QDPI) on quarantine matters in the north of Queensland. The meeting has now become a liaison meeting of all stakeholders in the north, QDPI and NAQS.  It presents our industry with an excellent opportunity to have contact with other stakeholders in the north, particularly the horticulture industry.  I have prepared a report for the QBA and I have suggested that they may like to pass a copy onto AHBIC.

Trevor Weatherhead

Pollination Prices
By Doug Somerville,
Apiary Officer,

There have been a number of surveys conducted that have included what prices are being realised for pollination work by beekeepers.

What is apparent in recent years is that beekeepers have got to get more professional in how they approach pollination, both in providing the service and pricing the exercise.

Regularly beekeepers under-value their pollination services, virtually balancing on the brink of being a charitable organisation. Too often beekeepers set their prices based on what the beekeeper next door is getting or even under-cuts the going price to get this EASY MONEY. Well, it shouldn’t be easy money if you are providing a highly professional service.

To provide a pollination service, the beekeeper should:
1) Provide a populous hive with sufficient field bees to pollinate the target crop.
2) The hive should be headed by an active vigorous queen and in an expanding brood situation with a minimum of 4 frames of brood.
3) The colony should be disease free at time of introduction of hives.
4) The hive should be provided when the grower requests and removed as agreed to between the grower and beekeeper.

Providing a pollination service means knowing something about the crop you are pollinating i.e. stocking rates to achieve maximum seed/crop set and advise where to locate the bees to get maximum coverage of the crop.

You are providing a service!, not just a box of bees, thus it is up to you to sell yourself to the grower, discuss the strength of bees, health of bees, floral conditions that may detract from the target crop such as weeds, location of hives and access to hives. You cannot assume the grower knows these things. They often don’t, and if you take the time to tell them, perhaps they will see the value and complexity of providing bees.

What are you losing? Potential honey crops, bees as risk of being sprayed, contaminated pollen and/or nectar, reduced fitness of hives after working a pollination situation due to poor pollen quality or lack of nectar supply.

Perhaps for some crops you may have to consider supplementary feeding pollen substitutes and/or sugar. All these are cost or risk factor that have to be considered when pricing pollination services.

Unfortunately, given all this, I bet that most beekeepers will continue to charge a similar fee for pollination services as the other beekeepers in the area and not truly cost out the provision of hives for pollination. So what are the other beekeepers getting?

A survey was conducted at the Crop Pollination Conference held in Mildura, Victoria on 21 August 1998. There were 45 present and the question was asked, “how much are you achieving for providing a pollination service for a range of crops?”

(Survey of 45 persons at CPA Conference,1998)

Canola Hybrid
Clover seed
Carrot seed
Cherries under nets
Faba Beans
Onion seed
$   33


This is only an indication from this one group of the prices achieved for various crops and is not a general recommendation.

These prices are what one person achieved only. In some of the crops I believe the service fee is far too cheap and the beekeeper has not thoroughly costed out the provision of the pollination service.

In many cases these prices have not changed in years. The average hiring fees achieved for honeybees within 80 km of Melbourne were published in the proceedings of the Crop Pollination Conference in Knoxfield, 21 July 1995. They were 


Peach and Nectarine
$  25-30


Some of the prices/fees obtained have not moved in three years for apples and raspberries. The above are possibly seen as the bare minimum price to charge now,  as they still do not reflect the true costs of providing bees for pollination.

A survey conducted by Mr John Rhodes of Queensland beekeepers, also looked at pollination fees. The following are the pollination fees achieved.

(June 1998- J Rhodes)
                                     Payment to Beekeepers per Hive

Av. ($)
Melons (incl Rock melons)
Faba beans

Range $

 In many cases, with all these studies and surveys, the number of actual beekeepers providing pollination services for specific crops is rather small, so the figures are not rigorous. In other words, they do not represent a lot of beekeepers’ fee structures. In all cases there are some impressive fees being obtained and some rather pathetic ones that would struggle to cover the cost of the fuel to get the bees onto the crop- certainly nothing to cover the costs of providing a comprehensive pollination service.

Beekeepers are their own destiny in relation to setting prices for providing pollination services. Work out how much it really costs you in providing a pollination service and you will be surprised.



Please note, on the bottom of the page, the new details for the AHBIC office.

AHBIC Annual General Meeting and Conference

The annual general meeting and conference of AHBIC will be held on Monday afternoon 12 July through to Tuesday evening 13 July 1999. The venue for the conference is: The Airport Motel and Convention Centre, 33 Ardlie St Attswood, Melbourne. The annual dinner will be held at the same venue on the Monday evening with Senator Judith Troeth the guest speaker. 

Vale: Glenn Sunderland

It is with sincere regret that I advise of the passing of Glenn Sunderland. Glenn passed away Monday 26 April after a very short illness.  A young man, who was, although only fairly new to our industry, extremely dedicated and worked very hard not only for the NSWAA but the national body as well. Our condolences to his wife Zoe-Ann and family

AHBIC thanks the following Voluntary Contributors:

Australian HoneyBee Improvement Program
H C Ayton
Bee Pollination Assn (Qld)
Capilano Honey Ltd
Coopers Fine Foods
Dewar Apiaries
R Edwards
HL & HM Hoskinson
HL Jones and Son
B & E McDonald
G Rainbird
R Rushton
W Shipway
R Stephens and Co
Swan Settlers
T & M Weatherhead
WA Pollination Association
Weerona Apiaries
E Wakefield
Wescobee Ltd


To maximise the efficient use of industry resources and funds to ensure the long term economic
viability, security and prosperity of the Australian HoneyBee Industry in Australia

AHBIC:                PO Box R 838, Royal Exchange NSW 1225
                           Phone 02 9247 1180 Fax 02 9247 1192
                         Email: ahbic@honeybee.org.au

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